Oregon Football Recruiting: Meet the Ducks' 2015 Class – Bleacher Report
“Welcome to Eugene, now help us win a national title.”
The directive is clear to all those associated with the Oregon football program: Win the Pac-12 title, earn a College Football Playoff bid and try to finally win a title.
So, with that, the Ducks welcome in one of their most prized recruiting classes in school history.
The Ducks, with 22 commitments, finished the recruiting season with the No. 3 recruiting class in the Pac-12, trailing USC and UCLA, and the No. 16 class in the country, according to 247Sports.
Oregon’s 2015 class is loaded with talent across the board, including six highly ranked recruits who have or will eventually enroll early at the school.
Though the 22 recruits will come in together as the 2015 class, there’s a clear division between those players who will help Oregon succeed in the 2015 and those who will have an impact further down the road.
The Ducks are best known for their high-octane, score-until-they-say-mercy offense. Oregon’s offense is the reason the program has become a national powerhouse.
However, this year’s most important recruit—and perhaps one of the most important in recent memory—is 5-star defensive end Canton Kaumatule.
Kaumatule, who is already on campus in Eugene, is the No. 16 player and No. 3 defensive end in the country, according to 247Sports.
At 6’7”, 290 pounds, Kaumatule should be able to come in and start from Day 1 for the Ducks. Oregon’s defensive line took a hit when junior Arik Armstead decided to jump to the NFL after this past season. However, Kaumatule is just the player to take his place.
According to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Crabtree, Kaumatule was one of the most impressive players at the Under Armour All-America Game:
That’s exactly what Kaumatule was at Tuesday’s second practice at the nation’s most prestigious high school all-star game. After a strong Monday performance, he backed it up with an even more dominating effort Tuesday.
Kaumatule wowed during one-on-ones with a combination of pass-rush moves, but what impressed so much was his quickness and his agility. He moved like a power forward on the basketball court, instead of a 6-foot-7, 290-pound defensive end.
‘Just like everybody else out here, I’m just trying to make things happen,’ Kaumatule said. “I think I’ve been executing and hustling, and I’ve kept my composure. I was kind of shaky before I got here, but I’m proud of how I’ve done so far. I’ve got to just stay hungry and be humble, while doing what I can on the field.”
Despite the fact that the Ducks powered through the likes of Michigan State, Stanford and Florida State this past season, they were still physically beaten down by Ohio State in the title game.
Oregon doesn’t need to change its recruiting philosophy. Clearly whatever they’ve been cooking up in Eugene over the past decade has worked beautifully. That being said, Oregon would be wise to continue trying to add bigger and more physical players, especially on the offensive and defensive lines.
Kaumatule is exactly the type of player Oregon needs on the defensive line. He’s big, physical and mean. Don’t be surprised if he makes a major impact on Oregon’s defense as a true freshman.
While Kaumatule comes in with high expectations for next season, there are a couple of other true freshman who are likely to make an impact next year.
Oregon has lost six starters on defense due to graduation or the NFL draft, meaning they’ll be looking for some defensive recruits to have an immediate impact next year.
Along with Kaumatule, it is expected that 3-star defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander will get some playing time next year. Head coach Mark Helfrich described Cumberlander, who is 6’6” and 241 pounds, as the “secret gem” of Oregon’s recruiting class, according to Brianna Amaranthus of CSNNW.com.
The Ducks will also need an immediate impact from their two JUCO linebacker recruits. The loss of Tony Washington and Derrick Malone is significant to the Ducks, but 3-star linebackers Jonah Moi and Paris Bostick both have collegiate experience and should be able to step into Oregon’s six-man linebacker rotation.
Who Will Have the Biggest Impact as a True Freshman?
On the offensive side of the ball, look for true freshman Zach Okun, a 4-star guard from California, to be a potential starter in 2015. The Ducks lost left tackle Jake Fisher, center Hroniss Grasu and left guard Hamani Stevens to graduation, meaning there are plenty of spots available along the line.
Okun, who enrolled early at Oregon, is one of the most talented guards in the country and at 6’3”, 340 pounds has the requisite size to compete against college athletes. Of Okun, Helfrich said, according to GoDucks.net, “Another team captain, honor student. Really powerful first step, great strike close quarters combat type of guy.”
Lastly, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about Oregon’s new speedsters. In what was a major coup for the program, the Ducks snagged three of the top four all-purpose backs in the country.
247Sports’ No. 1 all-purpose back, Taj Griffin, has already enrolled at Oregon and should have a leg up on his fellow classmates, though he is recovering from a torn ACL suffered during his senior season. Griffin may not be in a position to play a lot in 2015, but if healthy, he could have an immediate impact as a third-down back for the Ducks.
No. 3 all-purpose back Malik Lovette is a Mark Helfrich favorite. In his post-national signing day press conference, Helfrich said of Lovette “”This guy’s special, just in his vibe, his energy and everything about him” and mentioned he’s similar to senior wide receiver Keanon Lowe.
Helfrich said, according to GoDucks.net, that Lovette “played everywhere, was recruited everywhere as a cornerback, safety, specialist, obviously tailback, receiver.”
Kirk Merritt, the No. 5 all-purpose back, may have the most immediate impact. Merritt, who won the Nike SPARQ national championship last year, will likely play wide receiver for the Ducks, though, he could be moved to cornerback.
It would be wise of Oregon to use Merritt as Byron Marshall’s understudy. Merritt is a ridiculously talented athlete and has fantastic hands. While he played all over the field in high school, Merrit’s talents lend itself to being Oregon’s next Marshall or De’Anthony Thomas.
While the Ducks have plenty of talent on the current roster, don’t be surprised if a significant number of true freshman get playing time next year. As Matt Prehm of 247Sports points out, the Ducks have played 16 true freshmen in Mark Helfrich’s first two years—including 10 in 2014.
See ya Next Year
Based on Helfrich’s history with true freshman, the Ducks are bound to lean on some youngsters next season. However, there are some 2015 recruits who won’t see the field next season but represent the future of the program.
The two players Oregon fans will want to watch closely over the next two seasons are QB Travis Waller and wide receiver Alex Ofodile. If all goes to plan, this may be one of the best duos in college football a couple of years down the road.
Waller, a 4-star QB from Anaheim, California, is the No. 4 dual-threat QB in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports. Waller, who will enroll at Oregon in the spring, is definitely the future for the Ducks. There’s a good chance he starts in 2016 or 2017, but he’s not the present. He’s too raw and a bit too small.
That being said, Waller has monster talent, and the coaches love what he brings to the table. According to Molly Blue of The Oregonian, Helfrich said of Waller, “He’s an off-the-charts guy. We’re really excited to see Travis.”
Ofodile, who has already enrolled at Oregon, has great size at 6’2”, 185 pounds and is bound to be a star for the Ducks. According to The Oregonian, Helfrich said of Ofodule, “He’s a big guy, very physical, can go up and get it.”
Ofodile may not have an immediate impact, as he’ll be playing behind Darren Carrington, Devon Allen, Dwayne Stanford and others, but there’s no doubt he one to watch. If Ofodile and Waller build a rapport, watch out.
Another area to watch for down the line from this class is along the offensive line. The Ducks brought in six offensive linemen in 2015, including Okun, who we mentioned above. Recruits like tackle Brady Aiello, Calvin Throckmorton, Shane Lemieux likely won’t be part of the mix in 2015, but they’re integral parts of Oregon’s future.
Lastly, 4-star cornerback Ugo Amadi is one to watch in 2016. Amadi, who has also enrolled early at Oregon, could be the next shutdown cornerback for the Ducks. According to GoDucks.net, Helfrich said of Amadi, “Electric, very powerful. Has the hips and change of direction to play corner, physical enough to tackle.”
Amadi may find some playing time this season as Oregon’s secondary tries to replace Erick Dargan, Troy Hill and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. That being said, Chris Seisay and Arrion Springs look like the front-runners at this point. Amadi is a talented athlete and could be a future star, but his role will be limited next season.
Here’s a look at Oregon’s entire 2015 recruiting class:
|Canton Kaumatule||DE||Honolulu, Hawaii||5-star|
|Taj Griffin||APB||Powder Springs, Ga.||4-star|
|Alex Ofodile||WR||Columbia, Mo.||4-star|
|Zach Okun||OG||Newbury Park, Calif.||4-star|
|Ugo Amadi||CB||Nashville, Tenn.||4-star|
|Travis Waller||QB||Anaheim, Calif.||4-star|
|Malik Lovette||APB||Redlands, Calif.||4-star|
|Kirk Merritt||APB||Destrehan, La.||4-star|
|Brady Aiello||OT||Lafayette, Calif.||4-star|
|Shane Lemieux||OG||Yakima, Wash.||3-star|
|Calvin Throckmorton||OT||Newport, Wash.||3-star|
|Fotu Leiato||ILB||Steilacoom, Wash.||3-star|
|Jacob Breeland||TE||Mission Viejo, Calif.||3-star|
|Jake Hanson||OT||Eureka, Calif.||3-star|
|Jihree Stewart||CB||Corona, Calif.||3-star|
|Drayton Carlberg||OT||Minneapolis, Minn.||3-star|
|Rex Manu||DT||Mililani, Hawaii||3-star|
|Jonah Moi (JUCO)||OLB||Riverside, Calif.||3-star|
|Dylan Kane||S||Honolulu, Hawaii||3-star|
|Gus Cumberlander||DE||Ellenwood, Ga.||3-star|
|Paris Bostick (JUCO)||OLB||Santa Monica, Calif.||3-star|
|Gary Baker||DT||Upland, Calif.||3-star|
Jason Gold is Bleacher Report’s lead Oregon writer. Follow Jason on Twitter @TheSportsGuy33.